We are told to make disciples. Matthew 28:19 says, “Go, and make disciples”. Pretty nifty segue, huh?
I’ve always learned that to disciple is to teach. And there is a stark contrast between teaching and punishing. Punishment is typically more about anger, revenge and control. The lesson gathered is usually the wrong lesson. It’s about interactions with the punisher more than it is about a greater life issue.
For example, if a child spills a cup and gets yelled at, they are more likely to learn that the parents are angry people that need to be avoided. A more timid personality could develop (or a more defiant one). It’s likely that the lesson of ‘be more careful’ or ‘pay attention’, etc. is not deposited correctly when punishment is used.
And the whole goal of disciplining is to teach. When used in the Bible, there is typically the disciple and the follower. So you aren’t just teaching, you are leading. They aren’t just trying to learn one or two things, they are trying to be just like you. which begins to answer the most important question… why not just use the word, ‘teach’? When one word defines another, why not just use the other word?
The word, ‘teach’ is in the Bible, but it doesn’t make sense where ‘disciple’ is used. Part of being a disciple is being a leader. Not all teachers are good leaders. They have the facts but not the heart. Even more important is what we are teaching and how we are teaching it. Lets start with the what.
If I wanted to learn math, I would find a math teacher. If I wanted to learn about cars, I would find a mechanic (also a teacher). Schools teach. They provide knowledge. If I want to learn about God, I can also go to a school. There are many factual details to be learned that can come from book and scholar. But what if I want to become a Christian?
Being a Christian requires and is defined by a personal relationship with God. This isn’t taught. You can’t test your way into heaven. This is shown. Personally. Through example, testimony, lifestyle choices, prayer, discipline… aha, that word again. Discipline. Discipline is not just used to teach, its used to inform upon souls the most precious things of this world. The most important things.
And how is this done? With love. The greatest command. Screaming on internet forums or arguing on social media has yielded 0 positive results. I don’t have to look that number up. No one has come to Christ by being judged, ridiculed, and punished by ‘church-folk’. But they do take note when they see people loving others. Sharing food, clothes, shelter… just like Jesus said He would judge us by (Matt 25:44).
I don’t feel like this is a particularly revelatory message. But I also find I don’t adequately work to separate the different meanings of those words we use all the time. Without putting much thought into it we could likely argue that punishment, discipline, and teaching are fairly synonymous. But what vast differences they carry when you consider the mission, the message, and the method.
You might note that the disciples were followers of Jesus. Many will assume a disciple is a follower and that is true. But only in regards to whom we are following. And this is exactly why disciples are leaders. We are on the way to Jesus. And He commanded we bring others with us. We are leaders, in that, we are on the right path to salvation.
We are leading with a message that transcends book knowledge (more like a way of live, a way of eternal life) and we present the message with love. This is discipline. This is to be a disciple. This is what God wants more of. “Go and make disciples of all nations”.